What Do Brussel Sprouts Taste Like? Complete Guide

4 Mins read

Brussel Sprouts are a vegetable that can be used in various ways due to their heartiness and unique flavor. They can be shaved raw, cooked, baked, sauteed, pureed, and boiled. They hold up well to many culinary applications and are very versatile in how they can be cooked. Even though they are used in many interesting ways, Brussels sprouts sometimes get a bad rap. Some may consider this mini cabbage poor flavor, while others have been served poorly prepared Brussel sprouts. If you’ve ever wondered, “What do Brussel Sprouts taste like?”, let’s dive into their taste profile and discover why you should give them a try.

What Is A Brussel Sprout? 

Brussel sprouts gained their name due to being very popular in Brussels, Belgium. But they originally are known to come from the Mediterranean region, making their way to northern Europe in the 5th century. They grow in temperature zones of 45-75F, and it takes anywhere from 90-180 days from planting to be able to harvest the vegetable. They are a part of the cabbage family and are mostly in season from late August through March. They grow in Europe, Mexico, and the US mainly.

What do Brussel sprouts taste like

What do Brussel Sprouts Taste Like?

Brussels sprouts have a slightly earthy flavor with some bitterness to them. They taste like mild cabbage but can have some bitterness if eaten raw. They become somewhat nutty when cooked, and a mild sweetness can be tasted. There are benefits to raw and cooked Brussels sprouts, which we will explain later. But in regards to flavor, earthy bitterness to a sweet, cabbage-like flavor is what you can expect Brussel sprouts to taste like. 

Can You Eat Brussel Sprouts Raw?

You can, in fact, eat raw Brussels sprouts. Some of the best ways to prepare this vegetable is actually in a raw preparation. Raw Brussels sprouts can help with antioxidant levels, help prevent inflammation, and can even support digestion. Raw Brussels sprouts contain some complex sugars, though, making digestion harder for some. It is important to wash them thoroughly before consuming them raw if you decide to eat them this way. Brussels sprouts can be a great choice when eaten raw, especially if you prepare them in delicious ways.

How To Tell If Brussel Sprouts Are Bad?

Brussels sprouts that are starting to go bad will have a sour smell to them, like very strong cabbage that is going bad. Slimy leaves are another telltale sign that your Brussels sprouts should not be consumed. If any part of the stem or leaves is turning brown, then you definitely will know that way that the Brussels sprouts you have are going bad. Any sprouts that are mushy, soft, or seem off should be discarded. Lastly, any mold present on the Brussels sprouts is another dead giveaway, and they should not be consumed. 

How To Eat Brussel Sprouts Raw

Raw Brussels sprouts offer a crisp, mild cabbage flavor when consumed. They also can stand up to many different seasonings and flavors, so the possibility of dishes is endless. Adding dressings, vinegar, and other seasonings will highlight the cabbage flavor while hiding some of the bitterness. For example, you can shred the Brussels sprouts thinly and salt them. Once they have lost some water, you can drizzle in olive oil, season with black pepper, and finish with lemon juice for a fresh Brussel sprout salad. 

Brussel Sprouts salad

Many people enjoy using Brussels sprouts as a base for their salad. You could shave them thin again and top them with any number of dressings. Some flavors that go well with Brussels are apple cider vinegar, maple, parmesan, nuts, and dried fruits. You can finally marinate Brussel sprouts in vinegar and use them as a topping on tacos or nachos. Or mix them with a coleslaw dressing for Brussel sprout coleslaw!

How To Eat Brussel Sprouts Cooked

One of the more straightforward ways to eat Brussels sprouts is to simply boil them in salted water until tender and then serve them as a side. You can toss the Brussels in butter and seasonings once boiled or make a small pan sauce to cover them as well using butter and herbs. Boiled Brussels sprouts are a classic preparation that takes away some of the bitterness while giving a clean, cabbage-forward flavor. 

Another method is to roast Brussels sprouts. Roasting them will allow for the sugars inside the Brussels sprouts to break down, offering a sweet and nutty flavor as they cook. Have your Brussels sprouts and toss them with olive oil, salt, pepper, and whatever other seasoning you would like. Crushed red pepper flakes, grated parmesan, and granulated garlic is always a good choice. The Brussels will caramelize on the outside, and the leaves will be crispy when done baking, leaving a delicious side to any main course.

Roasted Brussel sprouts

One of the other more popular ways to cook them is to saute them. Cut the Brussels thin and saute in oil or butter, again allowing the sugars inside to develop into a nutty and somewhat sweet flavor. You can finish with a touch of balsamic vinegar for an acidic, nutty side dish. The key to hot preparations with Brussels sprouts is ensuring they are tender and developing the flavors within the sprout itself for maximum enjoyment.

Brussel Sprouts: Understanding Their Flavor

While their flavor may not be for everyone, it is more often the case that Brussel sprouts have just not been prepared in a way that highlights their unique flavor. Delicious mild cabbage, notes of sweetness and nuttiness when cooked, and a refreshingly crisp bite when raw all ensure that the flavor of Brussels sprouts can be very enjoyable. Understanding where they start flavor-wise and where you can take them is the key to making them taste good. So experiment with different cooking methods, recipes, and flavor pairings to find the best for you when eating Brussel sprouts.

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About author
Ray Delucci is a chef and content creator with over 10 years of experience in the restaurant industry. He has worked managing restaurants, in food manufacturing and food product development. He is also the creator of Line Cook Thoughts, a podcast and social media brand focused on sharing the thoughts of everyday cooks in the food world. He is currently located in the Greater Chicago Area.
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